Art Basel OVR: Portals – Tal R
16–19 June 2021
VIP preview: Wednesday 16 June, from 1pm BST
Public viewing from Thursday 17 June, 1pm BST
Victoria Miro is delighted to participate in Art Basel OVR: Portals with a focused selection of new flower paintings by the celebrated Danish artist Tal R.
In his work Tal R often employs apparently simple compositional devices and repeated motifs from life to create complex, atmospheric worlds that, beginning with the recognisable and known, expand or collapse into spaces of enchantment or ambiguity, heady with atmosphere and colour.
Painted during the pandemic, the works on view are united by subject matter and seem to foreground a domestic sphere that might serve to define the limits of our recent lives. Each depicts a bunch of flowers picked by the artist from around his home in the Danish countryside, presented in a vase on a table top within a closely cropped interior space. Throughout, perspectives are tilted to create an intimist space in which the seemingly everyday is served by the image’s emphatic flatness. In this deceptively quotidian world, there is a deliberate, non-hierarchical sense of everything existing on the same plane. As the artist explains, ‘you can’t say the table or the tablecloth is less important than the flowers. You have to say everything counts.’ Nonetheless, we notice how certain stems ascend buoyantly while others droop under heavy heads, how blooms become like characters within and between the works. There are definite emotional registers at play in addition to the chromatic ones we encounter at first.
A closed drawer might occasionally be visible at the very bottom of the image. However, while intimations of physical space are kept to a minimum, stopping just short of the right-hand side of the composition each tabletop appears tacitly to invite us in. Flowers in vases are, of course, a kind of contained beauty, a domesticated wildness, nature tamed, and in this context they, perhaps unavoidably, can be considered as memento mori, a poetic reminder that our time is fleeting. The artist would always prefer to talk about his work in terms of what he defines as ‘painter’s mathematics’ – for example, how a stem goes into a vase, or hits the water. And yet, as he concedes, ‘I think if you talk to a mathematician very late at night, he would say mathematics is very emotional. It’s actually a way of way of organising the world. And I’m also into that. I’m trying to organise things that have too many details.’
A substantial group of works from this series is on view in a solo exhibition titled HOME ALONE at Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark in June.
‘When the first wave of Covid came, I went to the countryside and every day I went out and would pick up flowers and sit and draw them. And it made absolute sense.’ — Tal R
‘You can’t make a hierarchy when you do a painting, you can’t say the table or the tablecloth is less important than the flowers. You have to say everything counts.’ — Tal R
‘When you look at flowers on the table, you might say “beautiful”, and that’s actually quite correct. Then you are going to say a lot of different things. You are going to project all kind of emotion, intellectual ideas about vanity, death and beyond that.’ — Tal R
‘It’s what I call “painter’s mathematics”… about how a flower goes down in the vase… all these amazing possibilities…. And since I’m dealing with a completely flat world, I have to get the viewer into it, on to this dance floor of the three dimensional that doesn’t exist. It’s everything the painter is dealing with.’ — Tal R
‘I think if you talk to a mathematician very late at night, he would say mathematics is very emotional. It’s actually a way of way of organising the world… I’m trying to organise things that have too many details.’ — Tal R
About the artist
Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Tal R lives and works in Copenhagen. Recently, the artist has held solo presentations at Glyptoteket, Copenhagen, Denmark (2020–2021); Magasin II, Jaffa, Israel (2019); Hastings Contemporary, Hastings, UK (2019); MOCAD, Detroit (2019). His major survey Academy of Tal R opened at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in 2017, touring to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Previous solo exhibitions have been staged at institutions including ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark (2013–2014); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2013); Kunstverein in Hamburg (2011) and Camden Arts Centre, London (2008), amongst others. Tal R held a Professorship at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2005–2014.